Red Pen Diaries: Part Three


In the third and final instalment of our freelancing-from-home series (find Part One and Part Two here), we discuss the elusive work–life balance.

India: Do you struggle with mentally checking out from work at the end of the day? Any tips for switching into home mode?

Daisy: No I absolutely don’t struggle with switching modes . . . but, thinking about it, that is probably something I’ve trained myself into. For me, it helps that as soon as I log off for the day, there are 54 mundane household- or family-related tasks waiting for me. It’s essential for me to compartmentalise. Also I can’t creep back into the office no matter how badly I might want to: a child inevitably chooses that moment to vocally let me know that she is hungry/thirsty/tired/very pleased with an interesting rock she’s just found.

India: Yeah, I was wondering whether kids worked as an instant stop-thinking-about-work switch.

I still have a long way to go with the work–life balance thing, but I’ve definitely made some improvements over the past 2.5 years. First, I turned off push notifications on my phone, so I don’t see emails pop up, and I made myself stop looking at the email app when I’m not on the clock.

Daisy: I get the same effect without trying by living in the opposite hemisphere to all my clients! I work while they’re asleep . . .

India: Good point! I also started doing yoga every day, just using free YouTube classes. Sometimes it’s less than 10 mins, but it helps a lot to do something physical when your job is so cerebral.

Daisy: Yep! Yoga, Zumba, pram excursions with the baby, a swim at the river with the big kids . . .

India: That sounds so nice. At the moment, I’ve got a good evening routine going: when Tim gets home, I finish work and we both go for a walk together. Then I shower, pour a glass of wine and make dinner while listening to a podcast or music. By the time we sit down to eat, I feel pretty removed from work.

The other thing that helps is having a separate room in the house to work in. It’s a luxury, but it makes a big difference. I keep the door closed and pretend that room doesn’t exist when I’m not working.

A room of one's own.

A room of one's own.

Daisy: It sounds like we’ve arrived at similar solutions, just custom-built for our particular contexts. My new office has the exact same incredibly useful feature (a DOOR).

India: Yeah, on the odd occasion I have to go into my office on a weekend, it makes me cringe! I love having it closed off.

I’m also very committed to doing six hours a day of solid editing, five days a week. That way, if I start to worry about deadlines, I can just tell myself, “You’ve put in the hours – that’s all you can do.” I definitely work some longer days and weekends, but I always regret it, because the quality of the work suffers (as do my eyesight/muscles/mood).

Daisy: Yes, I’m the same – but my commitment is four hours a day. I think it’s so useful, if not necessary, to define your own hours like that – set those numbers in stone.

India: Definitely. When I first started, I was just working as long as I could every day until I got a headache or my vision started blurring. Not clever.

Daisy: For my part, I used to work as long as I could every day until my husband had reached the end of his tether with the kids (or my mother-in-law had) . . . it took us a while to realise that four hours per day was what worked best for everybody.

India: Oh, I have one more tip: I’ve realised when you’re juggling multiple clients/jobs/deadlines, you can’t trust yourself to remember ANYTHING. So I have tonnes of spreadsheets, lists and folders set up so that nothing needs to be held in my brain. That definitely helps with the switching-off process.

Daisy: And you love it, you Type A you! In my Type B way I definitely do similarly, though.

So, have you finished your for-the-purpose-of-switching-off glass of wine yet? You probably need another one, since you’ve just spent the last hour talking about work!

India: Haha, I know! I’m not used to being in business mode at 9pm. Time to switch to tea, I think.

Thanks for joining us these past three weeks – we hope you enjoyed the break from usual programming. If you freelance and/or work from home, we’d LOVE to hear your tips for making it work.